Lately I have noticed that various sellers on eBay have been posting certain Howard items for absolutely ridiculous prices. Right now there is a copy of Dark Valley Destiny, signed by both de Camps (as most copies out there are) but not even in a slipcase, being offered for the laughable price of $60. With a little searching one could probably find a better copy with slipcase for $20 max, and probably a lot less.
Meanwhile, last week someone was trying to sell individual Don Grant Conan books for $200 per copy. When you consider all the things that series has going against it — incomplete, terrible art, lots of editorial mistakes and emendations — the true silliness of such a price sinks in. The books are not even that rare. Needless to say, he didn’t sell any of them.
At the World Fantasy Convention, the dealers were fairly well stocked in Howard materials, everything from the latest hardcovers, trades, and paperbacks to all of the old books, fanzines, and ephemera, even some REHupa mailings. But there too I noticed that the prices in almost all cases were prohibitive. Paperbacks that usually sell for $5 or so online were listed at $15 or even $20 per copy. I did notice one discrepancy, though: there were two copies of Heroes from Bear Creek from one dealer, and each was listed at only $20, far below the $50-$100 it usually sells for on eBay these days.
It seems that with the resurgence in interest in Howard and the thrill of the centennial, some of the more craven collectors and speculators are testing the market by dangling items out there at high prices and seeing if anyone bites. I like to see Howard collectibles move up in price as a sign of his increased viability and popular interest, but it’s an organic process connected to rarity of the item and contents, print runs, quality, etc. There’s a difference between good Howard collectors and suckers, and the sellers on eBay are slowly learning the difference. It’ll be interesting to see how long the prices on some of this stuff remain inflated before people get real again. Eventually they will return to the tried and true method of starting them at a low price and then letting the auction process work its magic, instead of placing stuff out there with outsized reserve and “Buy It Now” prices.